“If you see the President, tell him from me that whatever happens there will be no turning back.”
— Ulysses S. Grant
The year was 1519 when Hernán Cortez set sail for the New World. His strategic objective was the conquest of Mexico. The Aztec were a great nation with vast stores of gold and silver, an incalculable prize for King Charles I of Spain. Though I do not agree with what he had set out to do (not all strategic objectives are noble), I do, marvel at how such a small army could defeat a vast empire that had endured for 600 years. The key ingredient for their success would go down in history as one of the greatest Momentum tactics ever applied.
The Spanish conquistador first recruited his team for the great adventure and embarked on a dangerous voyage. After sailing halfway around the world, Cortez landed his eleven ships on the beaches of the Mexican Yucatan and unloaded the 500 men and supplies. Cortez then gathered his men around him and delivered those fateful words that now echo in the annals of leadership history, “Burn the Ships!”. Certainly, none of his recruits had anticipated this. They must have begun to wonder, Have we signed onto following a lunatic? Irrespective of Cortez’s mental state — if he was crazy like a fox or just plain crazy — from that point onward, there could be no retreat. The only option was success.
Ideas die from lack of faith, especially if the founders are the chief unbelievers. Burning the ships is synonymous with getting uncommonly serious about your objective. Relational movement in a consistent direction is what creates Momentum. Cortez knew that they could not generate break-through Momentum if his men were keeping one eye on their escape plan.
As you approach a point of no return, team members who have invested in the conquest usually begins to ask, “Where is the fall-back position, where are the reserves, what are the contingency plans?” Put simply, they wonder, “What if this doesn’t work?”
I am indeed aware of the importance of risk management issues. I am also aware that many people have been engaged in a reoccurring cycle. A vision is born, the vision gets hard, and the vision dies. Then they try something else.
Most of us will try several things before we commit ourselves to a lifelong focused pursuit. However, the problem is often that many have never sufficiently invested themselves in order to create the kind of Momentum needed to be successful. They have adopted a tolerance or threshold for opposition and difficulty that is too low. They say to themselves, I will to do this, if it is not harder than that.
I have bad news for you — there is no creative idea, process, or system so ingenious that it will work by itself. I co founded and help to lead an association of independent inventors, and am fully aware of how rapidly new innovations are emerging. However, the reason an originator of an idea rarely becomes rich is because they are unable to incorporate or monetize their ideas. Rarely does the idea alone have the Momentum to become successful. As the old saying goes: “Nothing works; people do.”
The surest way to kill your dream is to not be “sold out’’ to its successful completion. That has been the cause of innumerable failed projects, including my own. On the other hand, it is this abandoned pursuit of the success at all costs that makes your vision contagious. Like Cortez, when it comes to entrepreneurs and inventors, there is a fine line between being considered insane and being celebrated as a genius.
You may not think of yourself as inventor. However, everyone who has high goals for themselves is in the process of creating a preferred future. If you do not have authentic conviction behind your ideas and ideals, you simply will not be able to create (or much less) sustain Relationship Momentum. You must have a relentless resolve to see that preferred future become a reality.
A great illustration of this principle comes from the Old Testament, chapter thirteen of the book of Numbers. Moses sent twelve men to spy out the Promised Land. Ten of those spies returned from their forty-day recon mission with what Moses called “an evil report.” Their analysis was that the inhabitants of the land were like giants and that the men of Israel seemed like grasshoppers in their sight. Only Joshua and Caleb brought back a “good report,” saying, “God is able to give us the land.”
You’ve all heard this story. Here’s the leadership analysis. Moses sent twelve men to spy out the Promised Land to see how they could conquer it. The essential difference between the ten spies and the two was their sense of mission. The ten went to see IF they could take the land; the two went to see HOW.
In an honest analysis, do you think that your level of commitment to your strategic objective will generate enough Momentum to overcome the difficulties, the obstacles, and the opposition in order to make it successful? If not, you have to ask yourself, How much do I really want it?
It is not if, but how. That was the attitude of Hernán Cortez. In burning the ships, he made sure everyone else had that attitude as well. His reward was victory and riches beyond his wildest dreams.
What are you looking for?
Before embarking on the voyage, ask yourself this question, do you have any ships that need to be burned?